Pacolet Mayor is focusing on access to healthy eating, active living resources
We recently had the privilege of meeting Michael Meissner, the mayor of Pacolet, SC, a small town located eight miles outside the city of Spartanburg. Mayor Meissner wowed us with his passion for health and wellness, and we are excited to share a brief snippet of that passion with you!
Q; Tell us a little about your community of Pacolet.
A: We’re located in the corner of Spartanburg County, next to Cherokee and Union Counties, and we have roughly 2,300 citizens. We are right along the Pacolet River, which is amazing. We have water access for kayaking, and right up the road is the Pacolet River Heritage Facility. We have greenways and trails, and also a lot of sidewalks throughout the town. In fact, we have about a 4.5-mile loop of continuous sidewalks that people can walk on. So we have a lot of outdoor spaces for people who want to get out and be active.
Q: Why did you decide to run for mayor and when were you elected?
A: I was sworn into office November 2015. What inspired me to run was that if you want things to happen, you have to be willing to act. There were so many things that I wanted to work on, like the trails at the river, and instead of sitting around and just talking and wishing, I decided to be proactive. I want to help bring new things to Pacolet and help people better use the resources that we do have.
Q: Since becoming mayor, you have made promoting health and wellbeing in Pacolet a priority. Tell us about why health is important to you.
A: For me personally, I was always a little heavier as a kid. I also moved around a lot, so I always felt like the fat, new kid. And one summer before starting at yet another new school, I decided to make some changes, so I gave up all the junk food and stopped drinking soda and started walking everywhere that summer. Since then being fit has been a big part of who I am. As mayor, I want to ensure that everyone has access to healthy foods and places to be active, and also help people understand why having a healthy lifestyle is important.
Q: Why do you think people in your community should incorporate healthy eating and physical activity into their lives as well?
I sincerely think it’s important that individual citizens get out and be active. Statistics say that this generation is going to outlive their kids, and that’s a scary thought. We all need to start making changes to address this issue. It doesn’t have to be running or biking. Just going out walking three to four days a week has great benefits.
If people can make that initial effort to start incorporating healthy habits, overtime being active will become a part of their lives. In addition to being mayor and a schoolteacher, I own a gym here in town so I’ve seen people who didn’t like working out at first, but now they enjoy it. They find that when they start the day with exercise, they have more energy the rest of the day. Exercise eventually becomes a part of their routine.
Q: Tell us about some of the projects you’re currently working on to improve the health of Pacolet.
A: I’ve started a program called “Walk with the Mayor.” It’s once a quarter and we go out to one of our trails. It’s a great program in three ways. First, we’re showing off one of the town’s resources, and second, we’re getting citizens out exercising for around an hour, depending on how far people want to walk. Third, it also lets people get involved in the local politics and ask me questions directly. I think it’s been well received because I’m giving people a way to engage and find out answers.
The first “Walk with the Mayor” was on a Saturday, and we had more than a dozen people show up. It worked well!
I’m also working to expand our trail network at the Pacolet River Heritage Facility. We have some greenways and trails there already, but I’m working with some businesses to expand the trails next to the Heritage Reserve. I’m hoping to have about 5 miles that go along the river. One day, I would even love to see a trail run all the way from Pacolet to Spartanburg.
Another initiative I’m working on is a Healthy Cities, Healthy County program through the Mary Black Foundation with leaders of other municipalities across Spartanburg County. We’ve already applied so if we’re chosen as a finalist, the project would be two pronged: one, getting people out in our communities, and two, getting the local leaders involved in a friendly competition for health.
I would also like to improve access to healthy foods in Pacolet by starting a farmers’ market one day. There are a lot of people in the area who have produce, and what better place to sell it than at a farmers’ market? After all, exercise and eating healthy go hand in hand.
All of these projects have the potential to make a big difference here in Pacolet. It’s not just about helping our residents be healthier; it’s about bringing in other people and showing them the great community we have here.